The Big Apple - where originated this expression?
Why Big Apple?
There exist several explanations but it cannot be agreed upon
a particular one among diverse scenes - anyhow one explanation
became the official version.
Most of the stories around the phrase 'big apple' have to do
with the earning of money in NYC.
The phrase was documented for the the first time in Edward S. Martin's
book 'The Wayfarer in New York', published 1909, when he used
'Big Apple' as a metaphor for New York City. In this
metaphor sense New York is the fruit, the 'big' apple, of a tree
which has roots reaching down into the Mississippi valley and
branches spanning from ocean to ocean. That means that this tree
gets its strength, potency from far away, from where people
flock to the city to make their luck, to improve their business,
to find, receive the bigger fruits (in this context: apples). In
a nutshell: it was said that efforts paid off much better there.
No doubt about it: New York City had the right potency, the
city's growth was immense and capital accumulated real
So far so good. But what about other theories? Or were they
just inherited from Martin's statement. Even if he was the one
laying the cornerstone of this now famous metaphor, it may be
doubted that his book gained such broad reach to establish a
At this point another theory and a man named Mr. John F. FitzGerald come into play: On February 18th, 1924, this
well-renowned sport reporter and columnist (he actually wrote
about horse racing) originated a new column in the New York
Morning Telegraph, for which he worked. The name of the column
was: "Around the Big Apple", supported by an
illustration showing an outlined apple with - apparently - the
New York City skyline in it.
And he explained as following: "The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York."
As he later explained, he overheard a conversation between to stable hands, who referred to New City as the 'Big Apple', the
city where a man - and of course in company of his Thoroughbred
- could make the real big money.
This story is meanwhile the official one of the City of New York
and was discovered eventually by Mr. Barry Popik, a word
historian and law judge with New York City's Bureau of Parking Violations.
Additionally he convinced city representatives to rename the
corner Broadway and W 54th St, where FitzGerald lived from 1934
on for 29 years, to 'Big Apple Corner'.
In the 70' New York City's Tourism Directors chose the red
Big Apple logo and the phrase 'The Big Apple' as their
Before the 'FitzGerald' explanation evolved to be the official
one, it was believed that the phrase originated in the 1930s, when it
was heavily used by black Jazz musicians. They called a well paid
gig in New York a 'Big Apple'.
Again: a metaphor for making the
big money. Basically they used the expression in the same way as
Edward S. Martin did. There were many apples on the tree of
success but the real big one is the gig in New York.
At this time New York was the ultimate 'new' spot for Jazz
musicians and the place where having a good gig could have meant a
Evidence or not: there was even a Harlem Jazz Club named: Big
Apple. Anyhow, the connection between 'Big Apple' and the Jazz
Scene can be seen, but as said, it's not the official side of the
story of 'The Big Apple'.